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'■■■ ''£'- -'^-''; ' - "'- >-v''-x-,;,'As?<?' i ' 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 


BummERwaa. issues 


Talking Heads (introduction) 2 

Letters 4 

Sabotage: The Ultimate Video Game 17 

Memo Of The Month 28 

Poetry 29 

Not Just Words... Disinformation 33 

Customer Service, Michael Speaking, 

May I Help You? 38 

Charlie in Videoland 42 

Help, I'm Doing Hard Time In the Federal 
(or state or county or city) 

Bureaucracy (Tales of Toil) 50 

Fantasies of a Worki ng Gi rl 53 

All of the articles and stories in Processed World reflect the views and 
fantasies of the author and not necessarily those of other contributors or 

Credits: Belated thanks to Carioca for her graphic "Air-Conditioned 
Nightmare" (p. 28) and Lars for his photo of "That Office" (p. 64) in issue 
#4 of Processed World. #5's creators are: Freddie Baer, Sally A. Frye, 
Linda Thomas, Cookie, Gidget Digit, Helen Highwater, Lucius Cabins, 
Maxine Holz, Louis Michaelson, Chris Winks, Ernie Parell, Clayton 
Sheridan, Bernard P., John J., Richard Laubach, J. Guleslan, Michael 
Anderson, Leslie Regan Shade, Steve Stallone, Jamie, Mellnda Gebbie, 
Susan C, and others... 



Processed World continues to 
grow, both as a magazine and as a 
community of rebels from the office 
and elsewhere. Nearly 2000 copies 
of PW #4 were distributed in the 
first six weeks after publication. 
Our biweekly Wednesday night 
gatherings at a bar in the North 
Beach district of San Francisco have 
been drawing new friends, sym- 
pathizers and fellow malcontents. 

With the expansion of the edit- 
orial/publishing group, differences 
of opinion have multiplied. While 
we're all still agreed on the basics 

— the themes that have recurred 
throughout past issues and this one 

— we are divided on certain 
theoretical and strategic questions. 

How to organize ourselves — and 
for what — is the most crucial of 
these questions. All of us are 
extremely critical of the existing 
labor movement. While some of us 
feel it can be worked with or within 
in certain circumstances, others are 
adamantly opposed to trade unions. 
We all agree that the revolt which 
Processed World has analyzed, 
chronicled — and, hopefully, contri- 
buted to — has to extend beyond the 
limitations of the workplace into an 
attack on the entire complex of social 
institutions and relations we encoun- 
ter every day. This involves the 
development of new kinds of organ- 
ization, reflecting the diversity of 
experience and circumstances in 
modern society. Be they termed 
councils, unions, assemblies, or 
affinities, these forms could be the 
precursors to a situation where 
everyone could decide on the funda- 
mental questions of work, play, 
creation and enjoyment. The debate 
on unions continues in our Letters 
section with an exchange between a 
former social service worker and 
present SEIU militant, and Lucius 
Cabins, author of last issue's article 

on the Social Service Employees 
Union. We welcome further contri- 
butions on this topic. 

Another sensitive issue — es- 
pecially because of all the other 
questions it raises — is that of 
"sabotage." While the sabotage 
theme has cropped up in PW 
before, often jokingly, this issue's 
lead article, "Sabotage: The Ulti- 
mate Video Game" is the first time 
any of us has treated this theme in 
depth. The article has provoked 
intense debate among us. 

To begin with, the very meaning 
of the word is in question. Does 
sabotage refer to any destruction by 
workers of corporate or state pro- 
perty? Or is it merely the disabling 
of machines? More broadly, does 
the term cover (as the old Industrial 
Workers of the World had it) 
workers' on-the-job restriction of 
their own output by whatever 

Moreover, what is the signifi- 
cance of sabotage? Some of us, who 
emphasize the crucial importance of 
the new data-processing technology 
to an already-shaky power struc- 
ture, see sabotage as an essential 
means to undermining this struc- 
ture as part of a wider social 
transformation. A contrasting per- 
spective is offered by those who 
view the usefulness of sabotage as 
limited at best, and which, in its 
individual forms at least, is poten- 
tially damaging to collective soli- 
darity by bringing down manage- 
ment wrath on an atomized work- 
force. Most of us would stress that 
acts of ' 'sabotage ' ' should be viewed 
in their specific context — type of 
work situation, general level and 
aims of workers' self-organization 
there and elsewhere — and inter- 
pret these acts accordingly. 

These viewpoints alone deserve 
far more extensive coverage in PW. 


But out of the arguments about 
sabotage have come others: about 
what kind of world we want {es- 
pecially its technological base); 
about what kinds of tactics and 
strategy are most effective for 
improving our conditions within the 
present set-up; and about how such 
efforts relate to the fight for a new 
kind of society. The technology 
question in particular gets another 
look in this issue with "Not Just 
Words... Disinformation, " a review 
of San Francisco's recent Office 
Automation Conference and the 
trouble we made there, including 
selected comments from the press. 
A different slant on the VDT is also 
presented in this issue's fotonovela, 
"Charlie in Videoland," a satirical 
look at kids and computers. 

Along with the disquieting story 
of Charlie and his friend, the 
Visions and Nightmares department 
continues in this issue with "Fan- 
tasies of a Working Girl" and 
"Customer Service, Michael 
Speaking, May I Help You?" Both 
pieces take off from workaday 
situations into the realms of the 
surreal. So, in a different way, do 

the various poems, most of which 
deal with feelings of isolation and 
despondency in the office work- 
world. Our latest Tale of Toil 
"Help, I'm Doing Hard Time... " is 
true-life Kafka, demonstrating just 
how strange this work-world can be, 
especially within the labyrinths of 
the so-called "public sector." Ad- 
ditionally, it provides a useful 
corrective to currently-popular New 
Right cliches about why govern- 
ment doesn't work. 


We go into our fifth issue a 
larger, more varied and contentious 
group, debating many of the same 
questions that working people have 
argued about for at least a century 
and a half. We have in common a 
dissatisfaction with all of the pre- 
vious answers. As organizations of 
office workers outside the tra- 
ditional unions appear — and PW is 
just one of them — these debates 
can only become more widespread 
and better focussed. PW hopes to 
go on being one context for such 
debates. But we would like to see 
others. Go us one better! And keep 
in touch! 



_ —-Tins \3 3 A. I II 


SS"-»?."'"" lo*.-- 


■^ ,^ N> A ^y* •'. I 

•■ • - 

f. 0/ 





• "I am a gift processor (how's that for a 
catchy title?) at the prestigious 
institution of higher education indicaied 
on the envelope which I stole from work 
(office workers have a limited means of . 

sabotaging, I have found, but one does 
manage to take stamps, typing paper, - 
etc. and use one's typewriter during 

mTte'riar''^ ^°'"' *° P''°d^ce subversive 
m^ T.F. — St. LouisMO 

Dear Processed World, 

Thanks for helping me relax a 
little bit about office appearances. 
I used to be embarrassed about 
needing even a plain ordinary 
cushion on my steno chair. Then, 
when they moved me upstairs and 
put me in front of the IBM console, 
it became a rubber doughnut, and 
now it's two doughnuts on my chair. 
I was about to agree to embarrassing 
surgery when I read your last issue 
of Processed World. But I'm not 
going to worry about appearances 
so much. I'm going to continue to 
bring my rubber doughnuts to work, 
and I don't care who watches me 
perform this ritual, my putting the 
doughnuts down and sitting in 
comfort. If it becomes five dough- 
nuts, they'll have to raise the 
console because my legs are too 
long for a shorter chair. 

— C.R., Saratoga CA 

P.S. The story "Prelude" by Chris- 
topher Winks, is a gem. By the way, 
I thought you had succeeded in 
helping out Blue Shield. I pictured 
them sitting back and reading 
Processed World and garbaging the 
mail. But I'll be damned if their 
computer still isn't working, be- 
cause the same day your letter came 
I received a printout from them 
about why they couldn't pay for my 
last two office visits, dammit! Keep 

Dear Processed World, 

Where there is a need for 
sabotage, it's so easy just to put an 
Out of Order sign on the xerox 

Paper courtesy AT&T. 

Love, M (SF) 

Dear Processed Word, 

Your issue #4 gave me more 
laughs than anything I have read 
since the IWW pamphlets. You 
seem to be hung up in your 
development somewhere in the 
20's, where an intelligent being 
could still believe Marxist bullshit. 

Fantasies about sabotaging com- 
puters, fighting work quotas and 
assassinating bosses illustrate your 
failure to understand what the 
world is all about. Here are a few 
pointers that might just help: 

1 . Jobs are not created to provide 
employment. They are created to 
supply a service or product to 
someone willing to pay for that 
service or product. 

2. All wages, benefits, profits, 
tools, equipment, supplies, and 
workplaces must be paid for out of 
the sales price of the goods or 

3. If the customer can get it cheaper 
or better somewhere else, you lose 
the business (and your job). (This is 
the "Production for need" you 
desire, without the bureaucracy 
your scheme would require). 

4. However demeaning and ill-paid 
you consider your job, somewhere 
there is someone who will cheerfully 
do it for half your price. 

5. With today's instant communi- 
cation, it doesn't matter where a 
company locates the clerical staff. 

Denigrate if you must the 
"Childish" $50,000 a year execu- 
tive, but realize that it may be only 
his childish desire to live in Frisco 
rather than in Colorado or Korea 
that keeps your job around. 

On that great day when you 
smash the VDT's and hold the files 
hostage, you will suddenly find as 
the air traffic controllers did that 
society is not impressed with your 
tantrums. It is true that a concerted 
labor uprising can break a company. 
It has happened before, and it will 


happen again as long as we have 
people who, as we said in the old 
army, shit in their own mess kits. 
But a bankrupt company pays no 
wages, so where are you? 

But if you can't fight business 
and you can't fight the economy, 
what can you do to improve your 
situation? I'm glad you asked. 

1. Start out by making yourself 
worth more to your company than 
some warm body off the street, then 
diversify your skill enough to avoid 
locking in one narrow slot. 

2. Your rationalization for ripping 
off the company is the same one 
used by the executive for making 
his secretary fuck for her job. You 
both feel undercompensated and so 
you pick up a few extra benefits. 
Knock it off. 

3. When asking for a raise, forget 
what you "need." Everyone needs 
more. Talk instead of your proven 
value to the company, and if they 
refuse to pay for that, go elsewhere 
even if it means taking your 
precious tail onto a paper route or a 
janitor's job. If you are not worth 
what you are getting, keep quiet 
and hope the company doesn't find 

4. Don't fuck your boss for a raise. 
Not everyone can do 60 WPM error 
free, but the chances are that he can 
hire a better lay. Stick with what 
you do best, if anything. 

If the burden of applying yourself 
to your job so the customer is 
assured the best deal for the money 
does not appeal to you, then fuck, 
snivel, whine, cheat, steal and 
bullshit your way through life, 
because you are nothing but a 
fucking sniveling whining cheating 
thieving bullshitter, but keep quiet 
about it cause we already have more 
of them than we need. 
Walter E. Wallis Wallis Engineering 

1954-R Old Middlefield Way 
Mountain View CA 94306 

We encourage our readers to write 
directly to Mr. Wallis {send us a 
copy!). Here's one of our responses: 


The idiocies of Mr. Wallis are too 
numerous to be dealt with here. But 
the bumptious, arrogant tone of his 
letter, and some of the half-truths it 
contains, are worth attention for two 
reasons. First, they reflect attitudes 
and platitudes regrettably wide- 
spread among workers as well as 
the like of Mr. Wallis. Second, they 
express all too accurately the cur- 
rent relationship of forces between 
workers and business, at least in 
most of the world. Needless to say, 
these reasons are closely connected. 

Let's begin wth Mr. Wallis' 
economic notions, which are a cross 
between high-school Civics text and 
corner grocer. Mr. Wallis, with 
quaint stubbornness, asserts that 
market competition brings about 
"production for need. " The reverse 
is true. The gap between profitabi- 
lity and real human need — for 
properly-grown and nutritious food, 
comfortable and spacious housing, 
efficient and safe transport and 
energy generation, creative and 
satisfying work — has never 
yawned wider. Two-thirds of the 
world's population are badly- 
housed and malnourished. Seven- 
eighths of its workforce spend their 
lives in exhausting, mindless and 
frequently useless toil. At the same 
time, vast sectors of the global 
economy are devoted to the creation 
and satisfaction of "needs" like 
armaments, nuclear power plants 
and the private automobile. 

More compelling are Mr. Wallis' 
arguments for worker passivity in 
the face of capital's imperatives. 
"...You can't fight business and 
you can't fight the economy," he 


cro^s — because if we do the 
company will either go broke or 
leave town. At present, more US 
companies are going broke than at 
any time since the thirties, though 
seldom because of employee de- 
mands. Meanwhile, larger corpor- 
ations are indeed moving their 
industrial operations to low-wage 
areas like Latin America and South- 
East Asia. And in fact, the threat of 
mass layoffs because of bankruptcy 
or relocation has been remarkably 
successful in bringing US and 
Western European workers back 
into line. 

Traditional labor unions have 
proven completely incapable of 
dealing with this — except as active 
enforcers of management demands. 
Processed World is arguing for a 
new, offensive approach — for 
breaking out of the legJistic "la- 
bor" framework and creating di- 
rectly-democratic, autonomous or- 
ganization that cuts across the lines 
of income, occupation and (even- 

tually) nation. Moreover, while Mr. 
Wall is' class currently has the 
upper hand, there are encouraging 
signs. The workers of San Juan, 
Seoul, Singapore and Soweto are 
beginning to resist in earnest. What 
if they were to force the multi- 
nationals to pay them San Francisco 
wages? And in Western Europe, a 
generation of youth has appeared 
that is openly contemptuous of the 
miserable choices offered it, and 
prefers to fight directly for money, 
free time, and the space to enjoy 

Underlying Mr. Wallis' bullying, 
patronizing style is the mistaken 
certainty that working-class people 
are incapable of constructive self- 
organization. He concedes that "a 
concerted labor uprising can break a 
company. " But he prefers to forget 
that "concerted labor uprisings" 
have also broken government after 
government during this century, 
and have several times challenged 
the fundamental relationships gov- 


erning this society — the state and 
the wage system. Over and over 
again — in Russia and Germany in 
1917-21, Spain in 1936-37, Hungary 
in 1956, Portugal in 1974-75, and 
most recently in Poland during the 
last two years — workers have 
begun taking over social power and 
running production and distribution 
for their own purposes — without a 
bureaucracy. That these revolutions 
were "lost," crushed in blood, 
undermined by their own hesita- 
tions and lack of self-confidence, is 
not the point. The present order can 
be shoved aside by the new, freely 
cooperative and communal society 
already latent within it. The means 
and the necessity for this transfor- 
mation now exist worldwide, in 
more profusion than ever before. 

Mr. Wall is, rather than contem- 
plating such possibilities, under- 
standably prefers to give us vulgar 
and condescending advice on how to 

"get ahead" in a world marching in 
lockstep toward the abyss. Let us 
not regret either his stupidity or his 
repulsiveness. Both will make it 
easier when the time comes. 

—Louis Michaelson 

Dear PW, 

I would like to submit more 
observations on the daily life of a 
middle-aged secretary. It's all very 
hard, really, that daily life. It so 
often demands more than I can give 
and takes so much that my free time 
is spent trying to establish continu- 
ity between who I am and what I 
must be. Who I am means that I 
must establish and maintain human 
relationships. What I must be 
makes that dangerous and painful. 
You know how it is. And as they say 
on the street, you've got to keep 
three steps ahead because they 
keep pushing you two steps back. 
—J. Gulesian, SF 

© Louis Michaelson 1982 



Dear Processed World, 

It's been aeons since I wrote you 
about the unions — I appreciate 
your reply and the 2 copies of 
Processed World. I found it lovely, 
charming, beautiful, painful, tragic, 
hopeful. I should have responded 
long ago, but my despondence has 
superceded my ability to respond; I 
feel as though I am being beaten 

I appreciate your perspective (i.e. 
that represented by "P.W.") on the 
unions — I see a great foresight, 
and seeking for the truth. I am, 
unfortunately — (?) _ a grasper at 
straws — anything — to pull myself 
out of the morass of anonymity of 
demeaning, slavish work places. I 
am also a dreamer, my dreams keep 
me alive in the pit. So when the 
hopelessness overcomes me, I 
dream of a little boy wearing a 
T-shirt that says "Not to try is 


Dear Processed World, 

RE: Article in PW #4 on SSEU and 

the Welfare Department. 

As a firm believer that history 
should be written by as many of 
those that made it as possible, I feel 
compelled to speak out my analysis 
of that huge elephant, the San 
Francisco Welfare Department of 
the late 60's and early 70's. I spent 
6V2 years of my life internalizing 
and externalizing the many conflicts 
rampant in that institution where 
hippies, acid heads, and white 
middle class radicals represented 
the Establishment to unemployed 
minorities, where workers were 
oppressed by gay and Black super- 
visors before the rest of the country 
was out of the closet or ghettos. 
Where social workers attempted to 
cut reams of red tape before it 
strangled them as well. 

Unfortunately, it did strangle 
most of us, to some degree, and it 
certainly strangled the SSEU which 
no longer exists. The question is 
why? What could have been done 
differently? What did we learn that 
can help us now? 

First of all, let me present my 
bias. I was in the SEIU, first in Local 
400 (the Municipal Employees 
Union of 8,000), then in Local 535 
(Social Service Union). I was politi- 
cally naive upon arriving on the SF 
scene, but I had already dismissed 
the idea of social work being socially 
relevant back in the Midwest when I 
saw that the last thing the Poverty 
Program was set up by the Ken- 
nedys to do was to eliminate 
poverty! Of the poor, that is. I 'd never 
had a health plan, a paid vacation, or 
agrievanceprocedurealthough I was 
25 and had worked since I was 16. 

In my first month on the job I was 
confronted with joining one of the 
two unions: SSEU which was anti- 
establishment, anti-authority, anti- 
organization, for individual rights 
(sounded like Barry Goldwater on 
this issue!), and gave good parties. 


On the other hand there was the 
SEIU, part of George Meany's 
AFL-CIO, bureaucratic, in bed with 
our boss — Joe Alioto, but which 
did something akin to "collective 
bargaining," and was responsible 
for a health plan, paid vacations, 
and a grievance procedure that even 
SSEU used and enjoyed. It was to 
me a choice between power (tho it 
be corrupt) and "feeling good" (tho 
not totally un-corrupt). I wanted 
both. So I joined the SEIU and went 
to SSEU parties. 

During my 6V2 years there I 
joined hundreds of my coworkers 
(including United Fronts with 
SSEUers) in job actions, demon- 
strations, agit prop, and informal 
occupations. We won things like the 
right to wear jeans and see-through 
blouses, bulletin boards, and 
carved out loopholes for our clients 
to go through until the then- 
governor Reagan or the Democrats 
filled them with concrete. We had 
fun, we protested, and we enjoyed 
our after-hour escapes. 

As part of the SEIU I went 
through 3 strikes, watched many 
SSEUers cross our picket line, while 
some walked the picket line with us. 
(They never had an official position 
on a strike, it would violate their 
principle of individual decision- 
making.) We got sold out 3 times, 
not directly by our union officials, 
but by their superiors in the 
Teamsters, Labor Council and 
Building Trades. We got between 
4-9% raises when the cost of living 
rose 8-12%. Tim Twomey and 
Gerry Hipps (SEIU bureaucrats) 
gave up our right to strike. 

We started a caucus in Local 400 
and tried to change things. We 
made some headway and lost some 
ground. We ran for office, got V4 of 
the vote, and got kicked out of Local 
400 into our "own Welfare Union," 
Local 535. That meant that 200 of us 
were separated from 8000 members 
in Local 400. In 535 we fought 

Forced Work and could organize on 
a state level. We tried to get a Joint 
Council in the four SEIU Locals with 
representation from the ranks in 
order to have a chance to meet 
rank-and-filers in Local 400 and the 
Hospital Union Local 250. 

We leafletted General Hospital 
before work and found hatred of 
Tim Twomey comparable to our 
hatred of bureaucrats John Jeffrey 
and Gerry Hipps. We made alli- 
ances, drank beer, nourished spirits 
and shared visions. We wanted to 
build a caucus in each local, kick out 
the bureaucrats, establish demo- 
cratic structures and procedures, 
use the unions' resources to get real 
contracts, and learn to defend them 
by militant mass actions, link up 
with other militants in the Labor 
Movement, stop AIFLD monies 
going to Nixon and worldwide 
juntas who murder our fellow and 
sisterworkers, stop the Vietnam War 
and all other imperialist actions, 
increase social programs, work out 
a plan for full employment, end 
discrimination against all minorities 
and women. All this by pushing the 
unions to organize a Labor Party 
which would bring down the Nixon 
government like the Miners in 
England brought down the Tories, 
and then on to socialism! Workers' 
control of the whole enchilada! And 
in our lifetime! 

Why did we have such a hard 
time making the first step? Why 
don't we still have a contract here in 
"union town?" Even in Marin 
County they have a contract, flex- 
ible hours, and a caseload max- 
imum. (My caseload literally tripled 
when I was there!) Why didn't 
SSEU get a contract, get a dental 
plan, get caseloads reduced or even 
agitate for an end to the Vietnam 
War among workers outside DSS? 
An SSEUer told me, and that says it 
all: "We don't tackle the big issues 
because we're too small. " 

Well, in the SEIU we did tackle 




the big issues. An extra $30 a month 
the SEIU got made a difference in 
my life. SSEU scabs didn't turn the 
raises down as dirty pieces of AFL 
silver! Eventually Local 400 came 
out against the war in Vietnam and 
defended Angela [Davis] and the 
[Black] Panthers. A stand by 8000 
paved the way for other unions to 
take public stands against the 
government. On the other hand, 
yes, we were limited in what we 
were able to do because of the 
stranglehold of the bureaucracy and 
its politics of supporting the Demo- 
cratic Party. 

This is my main point: I think we 
could have successfully fought the 
SEIU bureaucracy in Local 400 if we 
had 400 unified workers instead of 
200 and then 100 struggling in the 
SEIU while those in SSEU were 
getting their rocks off on radical 
highs but changing very little. 
SSEU in New York City (the model) 
did separate from the mainstream 
union movement, but it organized 
itself and got back inside the 
AFL-CIO. I never wanted to wear a 
see-through blouse, and I prefer 
skirts to jeans. What I wanted and 
we all needed was a contract with 

caseload limits, more workers, a 
dental plan and resources and jobs 
for our clients. For a start! 

SSEU was a diversion, an inter- 
esting precursor to the 70's "Me 
generation." If those 2-300 people 
had been as interested in communi- 
cating and organizing among 18,000 
other city workers whose main 
concern was their working condi- 
tions and not their lifestyles and 
own heads — then we'd be in a hell 
of a better position now! 

If we had had a rank and file 
takeover of a union of 8000 in 
1970-72 what would have changed? 
For one, Local 29, OPEU in Oakland 
had a takeover in a union of 5000 in 
the mid-sixties. They were isolated 
and had to buck two trusteeships 
and hostility from the Alameda 
County Central Labor Council 
(which continues to this day). They 
made sweeping democratic 
changes, took part in the move- 
ments against the war, in defense of 
Blacks, and the women's move- 
ment, but they were under incred- 
ible pressure to compromise. One 
other large rank and file local in the 
area would have been an enormous 
support for them. Local 250 has had 



caucuses rise and fall for 15 years. 
Local 400 could have inspired thenn 
to keep at it. Local 400 could have 
supported the drive to organize 
clericals instead of firing every good 
Business Agent. We could have 
instituted elected Business Agents 
and picked them ourselves! 

Rank and file control of a large 
union could have made a difference 
as far as organizing other workers in 
SF and winning protection for them, 
for influencing the rest of the labor 
movement and society in general. 
The ranks controlled SSEU, but 
they were small and basically 
ineffectual. We needed (in the 
Welfare Department) to link up with 
the thousands of our sisters and 
brothers in Locals 400 and 250. 
That's where they were. It wasn't 
and still isn't easy. There is no 
shortcut or real alternative, like a 
better international or no inter- 
national. Otherwise we're starting 
from scratch, like much of the New 
Left likes to do, and discard 100 
years of experience along with the 

We've come some distance from 
the days of the Triangle Shirt 

Workers, sweatshops, the 16 hour 
day, and child labor. And it wasn't 
done by individuals. It was through 
the sweat of collective effort. We've 
come a long way from the direct 
militancy of the Wobblies and the 
unifying sweep of the early CIO. 

Judy Erickson was correct. The 
AFL-CIO is business unionism and 
is sleeping with the bosses. But 
where is SSEU's strategy for "tak- 
ing it over?" (For that matter where 
is SSEU?) The Democratic Party 
controls SF Welfare just as it 
controls City Hall and the leader- 
ship of Local 400. They made a 
recent decision to lay off 350 
Welfare workers due to Reagan's 
cuts which affect Medi-Cal. All 
SSEU could do was "unmask au- 
thority" and "feel confident in its 
own ideas." (Smoking a joint will do 
that!) Understanding and confi- 
dence only really matter when they 
aid us in changing the things that 
oppress us, especially if they're the 
"big issues." 

In the SEIU we had a strategy, 
but not enough people then. SSEU 
had people (in Welfare) but their 
only strategy was for small changes. 

Local 400 now has a caucus that is 
in a position to challenge the 
current bureaucrat, Pat Jackson. A 
new, larger caucus is developing in 
Local 250. There have been two 
rank and file takeovers of SEIU 
locals in Massachusetts recently 
with a combined membership of 
17,000. Workers can and are re- 
claiming their own unions. This will 
aid the unorganized workers to 
organize in new ways that can 
bypass much of the bureaucratic 
garbage that has held us back so 
long. Hopefully we all can learn 
from past mistakes, and at the same 
time be inspired by our smallest 



I hope this discussion continues 
because it's critical to office wor- 
kers. How do we organize? Spon- 
taneously, in small groups at each 
work site, or do we join with OPEU, 
SEIU, and AFSCME to be able to 
take on wider issues like the need to 
turn the defense budget into the 
social services budget, to defend 
undocumented workers, to run la- 
bor candidates instead of voting for 
the lesser of the bosses' evils, as 
well as do a good job on our own 
immediate issues. 

If we choose the unions we have a 
struggle against the bureaucracy. If 
we choose spontaneous networking, 
we of necessity limit ourselves to 
some of our own immediate issues. I 
think we need nationwide structures 
to even deal with the banks and 
insurance companies, as well as the 
support from all of the working 
class, including labor, minority and 
women's groups. But within the 
larger structures we need a rank 
and file democracy which encour- 
ages the most creative tactics, like 
the mass grievances and agit prop 
utilized by SSEU. 

— "Dolly Debs" 
Wee/// Heeelllllooooo Dolly, 
Thank you for your response to the 
article on the SEIU/SSEU contro- 
versy. First, there are a couple of 
points of historical disagreement: 
Burt A I pert {ex-SSEUer) claims that 
it was due to the direct action of 
SSEU members that the current 
grievance procedure was estab- 
lished {not, as you assert, as a result 
of the contractual bargaining of 
SEIU), one which allows workers to 
represent themselves in hearings 
and call witnesses and introduce 
evidence as they see fit, rather than 
leaving it up to union representa- 
tives to "handle it." 

Another point of disagreement 
lies in your assertion that the SSEU 
was unconcerned with working con- 
ditions, in particular that they did 

nothing about ever-growing case- 
loads. As mentioned in the article, 
the SSEU led a symbolic "case- 
dumping" to protest the increasing 
caseloads, and throughout The Rag 
Times and Dialog there are num- 
erous articles and opinions that 
dealt directly with a myriad of 
problems and issues related to 
working conditions. In fact, you say 
yourself that the SSEU tended to 
focus on immediate problems at the 
expense of the "big issues. " 

So you say, and this would seem 
to be the main theme of your 
critique of SSEU, i.e. that it didn't 
attempt to deal with the "big 
issues. "According to you, the SEIU 
did tackle the big issues, which led 
to a $30/ month raise {$75 in 
contemporary dollars), a public 
stand against the Vietnam war, and 
support of the openly pro-Soviet 
Union Angela Davis. I think it a bit 
odd that you could term these 
significant accomplishments. I 
know people who get equally mini- 
scule raises and don't think it 
improves their lives at all. Anyway, 
how long did it last before it was 
eroded by inflation? 

In other parts of your letter, you 
give the impression that the "big 
issues crucial to our survival" are 
approximately as follows: 

1. Health plans, dental plans, paid 
vacations, and grievance proce- 

2. Getting "real contracts" 

3. "increase social programs and 
work out a plan for full employment' ' 

4. Gaining power by establishing a 
"Labor Party" to take over the 
government and establish "social- 
ism," which would presumably 
bring about all of the above 

While I wouldn't dream of turn- 
ing down improvements in my 
material conditions of existence, 



and at least some PWers feel they 
are important on-the-job struggles 
to engage in, these various issues, 
to my mind, aren't the "big" ones. 
In fact, I think you missed the point 
of the original SSEU and the article 
describing it: that the biggest issue 
is the way people deal with each 
other on a daily basis — the content 
of social interaction. After that, for 
us, the point is not to take power 
through a "Party" and increase the 
scope and importance of the welfare 
state, but rather to abolish both 
centralized power and the state. 

You also neglect to deal with the 
substantive criticisms of both SEIU 
strikes and collectively bargained 
contracts laid out in my article 
through lengthy quotes from SSEU 
publications of the era. You prefer 
to call SSEUers "scabs" and to 
insist that it is the contract that 
could "limit caseloads, provide 
more workers, a dental plan, and 
resources and jobs for the welfare 
recipients. " Frankly, I don't agree. 
The contract is basically only as 
strong as the workers it claims to 
represent. Owners and managers 
have flaunted contractual agree- 
ments countless times. The only 
real protection workers have is their 
collective ability and willingness to 
take action against their employers 
— which they can do with or without 
the contract. By now it should be 
painfully clear that the law is not the 
friend of the working class. 

Then there's your other most 
important theme, the "what if" 
theme. What if a militant caucus 
had taken over the leadership of 
SEIU 400? Unfortunately, there are 
all too many examples of union 
"militants" who get into leadership 
positions and then proceed to act 
just like the people they replaced. A 
couple of good examples are the two 
leaders of national postal unions, 
Biller and Sombrotto, who led 
wildcat strikes in 1970 but are now 
entrenched bureaucrats presiding 

over the automation of the postal 
service. Another good example is 
the "rank and file" militant Arnold 
Miller, who became head of the 
United Mine Workers on the 
strength of a r-a-f movement and 
then acted just like his predecessor. 

Another example, which you cite 
in your letter, is that of OPEU Local 
29. This local, which still suffers 
(enjoys?) the enmity of the Alameda 
County Central Labor Council for its 
"independence, " is the same local 
which stabbed OPEU local 3 (SF) in 
the back during the Blue Shield 
strike (1980-81) by settling for a 
contract which Local 3 had rejected 
and was striking to improve. This 
illustrates another point: no matter 
how well intentioned or militant a 
local is, most of the time they act as 
if they are in a vacuum and take 
actions which directly undercut 
other workers. 

Unions are set up to do one basic 
thing: negotiate the terms and 
(sometimes) the conditions of the 
sale of their members' labor power. 
"Militant" leadership faces a myr- 
iad of institutional/legal contraints, 
not the least of which is their 
isolation in one occupational group- 
ing, geographic area, or nation- 
state. Invariably, this leads to 
compromise with the basic setup. 
Even if a situation existed where a 
highly motivated, active group of 
workers abolished paid leadership 
positions and maintained direct 
control over their own struggles, it 
would ultimately be absorbed by the 
system unless a broader horizontal 
network between different workers 
and job-sites developed. And even 
within such a network, new tactics, 
strategies and goals would have to 
be developed. 

Somehow you equate doing away 
with obsolete and oppressive union 
internationals with the abandon- 
ment of 100 years of experience. 
Union internationals, all of them as 
far as I know, are in the business of 



keeping workers' struggles as iso- 
lated as possible and focused on 
issues that can be most easily 
accommodated by the status quo. In 
fact, one could argue that union 
internationals {and the vast majority 
of locals, perhaps with rare excep- 
tions) are among the primary insti- 
tutions that have evolved in this 
society to obscure the connections 
between the "big issues" and the 
"little issues" of people's daily 

What's more, you assume that 
spontaneous networking necessarily 
limits the nature of workers' strug- 
gles to immediate issues, and that 
this is inadequate. Obviously we 
disagree on this too. I think that if 
people are challenging the imme- 
diate issues that affect their lives, 
they will usually find themselves 
facing the big questions, i.e. the 
questions of authority, decision- 
making, and a society based on 
coercion enforced by the money 

The overall thrust of your criti- 
cisms of the SSEU seems to be that 
the members should have been less 
interested in their daily lives. 
Instead, you argue that they should 

have joined SEIU Local 400 {even 
though they were kicked out for 
being too active Oi, their own 
behalf), learned to "discipline" 
themselves by reducing the "cha- 
os" of unlimited positions and ideas 
on every subject, and directed their 
energies toward establishing a "la- 
bor government" in as many juris- 
dictions as possible. 

You assert that in order to take on 
the wider issues it is necessary to 
join OPEU, SEIU, or A F SOME, 
when it seems obvious that those 
are the very organizations least 
interested in seeing workers organ- 
izing themselves for things other 
than union-sponsored demands or 
candidates. Nationwide structures 
are useless unless people are taking 
action that requires coordination on 
that basis, or {hopefully) on an 
international basis. Establishing the 
structure before people are moving 
to take control over their own lives 
is a simple recipe for a new 
bureaucracy, just as oppressive and 
irrelevant as all the ones we're 
saddled with now. 

Yes, the discussion on how to 
organize is crucial for office wor- 
kers, and for the rest of the 

Commuter Crunch 



workforce throughout the world. 
Organizational forms that depend 
on the autonomous strength of 
groups of workers on the job are what 
we should be seeking, not forms 
that depend on lawyers, accoun- 
tants, and bureaucrats. It seems to 
me that we should be more con- 
cerned with enunciating as many 
visions as possible of directions to 
move in, in terms of new ways to 
organize society as a whole, rather 
than merely trying to exhort people 
to defend what little they've got. 

True in sports, but even truer in 
class war, the best defense is a 
strong offense. And in a time of 
deteriorating social and material 
conditions, the best offense is the 
most diverse and varied one, keep- 
ing the authorities guessing about 
what will happen next — unions 
don't provide such dynamic possi- 
bilities, but autonomous groups of 
workers, taking action as they see 
fit, do. Processed World aspires to 
be a part of such a movement. 

For Workers' Autonomy, 
Lucius Cabins 


Dear PW, 

. As I'm writing this I'm over- 
hearing live coverage of the peace 
demonstrations in NY and SF. It's 
exciting to hear how many people are 
out. But it's depressing to hear the 
old sixties peace leaders and other 
old guard leader types calling for the 
old basic involvement in the electoral 
system. Does anyone really believe 
that works anymore? I think just the 
old guard sixties lib-radical types 
believe that. I wish Barry Commoner 
and Joan Baez would explain juSt 
when we ever get to vote on whether 
we want nukes or nuke power in the 
first place. We can't vote against 

nuke war, the best we can do is vote 
for an initiative (nonbinding) asking 
Mr. Reagan please to consider not 
wiping us in a nuclear war. But that 
seemstobeall I hear coming from the 
radio — that and old Linda Ronstadt 
tunes... and mothers whining about 
saving their babies from fallout (for 
happy, productive lives as cogs in 
capitalist-electoral society). 

— W.,LA 





One year ago the Bank of America 
offered me a job as a Systems 
Analyst. Not being a moralist, I didn Y 
feel that my anti-authoritarian prin- 
ciples would be overly compromised if 
I became an officer of one of the 
largest and most hated financial 
institutions in the world. Besides, 
once inside the belly of the beast I 
could pursue my other career — i.e. 
professional anti-authoritarian revo- 
lutionary. While designing property 
management database systems I 
could drop hints to my co-workers 
about a "world free from authori- 
tarian domination and exploitation. ' ' 
Without being dogmatic, condescen- 
ding or jargonistic, Vd convince 
others of the desirability of a "class- 
less, stateless society where decisions 

about daily life are made by those 
most directly affected by the conse- 
quences of the decisions, " meanwhile 
making sure not to neglect my duties 
in providing technical assistance for 
the department's office automation 
project. Fd pass out copies of Pro- 
cessed World, Fd never cooperate 
with management, Fd always support 
my co-workers in their fights with the 
supervisors. Perhaps one day we'd 
take over the data center and take 
control of the Bank's assets. From 
such experiences people would be- 
come "capable of coping with social 
problems in a direct and conscious 
way, beyond present day 'needs ' like 
the maintenance of profits and power 
structures. " 
/ did carry on my shadow career by 



participating in Processed World. In 
fact, that's how I got caught with my 
theory of sabotage showing. More 
precisely, Heft a copy of the following 
article "Sabotage: The Ultimate Vid- 
eogame'' on my desk at work. One of 
the people who I should have con- 
vinced long before of the desirability 
of a new world found it, and turned it 
in to the VP of Personnel Relations. 

Subsequently, I had a meeting with 
the VP and was asked to comment on 
the article. Despite my attempts to 
turn sabotage into something harm- 
less he meted out a punishment of a 
week 's suspension. At the end of that 
week I was fired. In the formal 
document explaining my dismissal he 
stated that it was too risky to have a 
person who advocated and condoned 
sabotage working around expensive 
equipment that stored critical finan- 
cial data. 

Of course, it's not surprising that I 
got the bounce. Everyone knows that 
the Bank of America is a repressive 
institution. My firing is more interes- 
ting in what it reveals about me. 

There was a subtle dissimulation in 
the way I presented myself to the 
people I worked with. I'm sure most 
of them were shocked when they 
found out why I was fired. After 
having worked there for a year only a 

few people knew that I consider 
myself a radical. Virtually no one was 
aware of my past political involve- 
ments or that my ideas about what's 
wrong with the world didn't spring 
full blown from the CRT screen. My 
problem wasn't that I failed to 
convince people but that I was 

This same problem extends to the 
way Processed World handles the 
question of who we are as a group. 
' 'Office dissidents, ' ' * 'malcontents, ' ' 
"nasty secretaries" are all vague 
ways to respond to those who inquire 
about our politics. Like me, most of 
the members have definite political 
backgrounds that stretch back for 
years. {This is not to say that PW is a 
monolithic political organization. 
While we all consider ourselves anti- 
authoritarian, we differ from each 
other substantially in our political 
points of view — See Talking Heads.) 

Our relationship as marginals, rad- 
icals and "revolutionaries" to the 
people we are approaching should be 
analyzed. Perhaps if I had been more 
open about my ideas at Bank of 
America /* wouldn't have been so 
isolated when I got caught with my 
theory showing. 

— Gidget Digit 

Piinteo .n U S A 

Awarded to Gidgit Digit for Outstanding Service to the Bank — 1982 



I j..!i GAME 

by gidgit digit 

What office worker hasn't thought 
of dousing the keyboard of her word 
processor with a cup of steaming 
coffee, hurUng her modular telephone 
handset through the plate glass 
window of her supervisor's cubicle, or 
torching up the stack of input forms 
waiting in her in-box with a "mis- 
placed" cigarette? The impulse to 
sabotage the work environment is 
probably as old as wage-labor itself, 
perhaps older. Life in an office often 
means having to endure nonsensical 
procedures, the childish whims of 
supervisors and the humiliation of 
being someone's subordinate. It's no 
wonder that many of us take out our 
frustrations on the surroundings that 
are part of our working life. 

The current upsurge in the use of 
computerized business machines has 
added fuel to the fire, so to speak. 
Word processors, remote terminals, 
data phones, and high speed printers 
are only a few of the new breakable 
gadgets that are coming to dominate 
the modem office. Designed for 
control and surveillance, they often 
appear as the immediate source of our 
frustration. Damaging them is a quick 
way to vent anger or to gain a few 
extra minutes of "downtime." 

Sabotage is more than an inescapable 
desire to bash calculators. It is neither 
a simple manifestation of machine- 
hatred nor is it a new phenomenon 
that has appeared only with the 
introduction of computer technology. 
Its forms are largely shaped by the 
setting in which they take place. The 
sabotage of new office technology 

takes place within the Isirger context 
of the modern office, a context which 
includes working conditions, conflict 
between management and workers, 
dramatic changes in the work process 
itself and, finally, relationships exist- 
ing between clerical workers them- 


Once considered a career that 
required a good deal of skill, the 
clerical job now closely resembles an 
assembly line station. Office manage- 
ment has consciously applied the 
principles of scientific management to 
the growing flow of paper and money, 
breaking the process down into 
components, routinizing and auto- 
mating the work, and reserving the 
more "mental" tasks for managers or 
the new machines. 

The growth and bureaucratization 
of the information-handling needs of 
modern corporations and governments 
has changed the small "personal" 
office into huge organizations com- 
plete with complex hierarchies and 
explicitly defined work relationships. 
No one is exempt from being situated 
in the organizational chart. The 
myriad of titles and grades tends to 
inhibit a sense of common experience, 
since everyone else's situation seems 
slightly different from one's own. 
Each spot on the hi^*archy has its 
privileges and implied power over 
those belov/ it, and its requirements 
of subordination to those above. This 



social fragmentation is all the more 
alienating because it occurs within the 
context of a supposed social equality. 
There is a pretense of friendliness 
among all office employees regardless 
of their rank. This "nice" atmosphere 
works conveniently to legitimate the 
hierarchy. If it seems that everyone is 
equal and has an equal chance to 
cHmb the ladder, the ladder itself 
appears as the emblem of this "equal 
opportunity." All this makes for an 
extremely subtle set of power relations . 

Rather than through raw confronta- 
tion, power is reinforced by imbuing 
the entire office terrain with its 
symbols through things like dress, the 
size of one's desk or work space, and 
"perks." In such a setting, people 
may try to reduce their powerlessness 
by playing the game of privilege or 
forming alliances with those more 
powerful than themselves. Indeed, 
this type of behavior is almost 
required for survival in a typical 

In addition to these implicit power 
relations, many offices (especially the 
larger corporations) have formalized 

111 [ '^^ 

Mr VMUter say^„ wasn't 

started ve*- 

procedures to handle open conflict 
when it occurs. Most of these com- 
panies have personnel departments 
that try to mediate between managers 
and their underlings. While most 
people recognize these substitutes for 
unions as biased at best, there is often 
no alternative, especially when collec- 
tive action doesn't seem possible. 
This process of taking complaints up 
the hierarchy is the reflection of the 
power cliques and manipulation that 
hold sway on the more informal level. 
As such, it indicates the conscious 
attempt on the part of management to 
undermine any workers' initiatives to 
organize autonomously, reinforcing 
the hierarchy as the only legitimate 
framework for work, conflict, in short 
for all aspects of social life. 


Given the stifling atmosphere of 
office life it is easy to see why white 
collar workers have rarely developed 
organizational forms (like unions) but 
have relied on different techniques 
£md strategies to oppose both the 
reorganization of their work and the 
introduction of new technology. De- 
spite the constraints imposed by 



bureaucracy, an informal office work 
culture subverts the "normal" office 
order. Activities common to this 
culture often encourage a feeling of 
comraderie and collusion among those 
who practice them. For example, 
many clericals have become adept in 
manipulating the superficial friend- 
liness and can get away with what 
might otherwise be considered in- 
subordination. I recently worked with 
a woman who regularly called one of 
the managers "der Fuhrer". Since 
she was known around the office for 
her abrasive personality her behavior 
was accepted. While this type of 
"joking" does not really undermine 
the basis of a manager's power it 
creates a potentially subversive com- 
munity of those who are amused at 
seeing a bureaucrat insulted to his 

Other normal daily activities in the 
office also contribute to the subver- 
sion of office order, e.g. making free 
use of xerox machines, telephones, 
word processors, etc., for personal 
uses rather than company needs. 
"Time-theft," too is a widespread 

form of normal anti-productivity be- 
havior — extended breaks and lunch 
hours, arriving late, leaving early, 
reading the paper on the job, etc. 

Pranks can also be disruptive to the 
normal routine. For example, at Blue 
Cross of Northern California (where I 
worked as a temp in 1974) there were 
a few hundred VDT operators. 
Each operator had a set of procedures 
to follow to bring her terminal "up," 
after which the words ' 'Good morning, 
happiness is a sunny day!" would 
appear on the screen. No key entry 
clerk is in the mood to see that at 7:30 
AM. One morning someone in the 
notoriously weird claims input depart- 
ment figured out how to change the 
program that ran the start-up proce- 
dure. When the 250 or so terminal 
workers powered on their machines 
that morning they were greeted with 
the more pleasing "Good morning, 
happiness is a good fuck!" On top of 
being good for a laugh, it caused 
management to shut the computer 
down until a systems analyst came in 
and fixed the program. 

Haue you UUanted To 

Dtouj Up your DOSS? 




Beyond the daily "fun and games," 
there are more serious forms of 
resistance to the office routine. Theft 
is perhaps the most well known. 
However, it is often not recognized as 
such, largely because the media dwell 
almost exclusively on executive em- 
bezzlement schemes. Shaped by the 

nature of the work itself (the large 
flows of money that many clericals 
deal with daily), the breakdown of the 
close relationship between clerk and 
boss that formerly existed, and the 
rip-offs that the use of computers has 
made possible, white collar pilfering 
is another response office workers 
have developed to compensate them- 
selves for lousy wages and bad 
working conditions. It is responsible 




for an estimated 30 to 40 billion in 
losses per year with computer crime 
amounting to about 10 percent of that 

White collar crime is usually asso- 
ciated with a more highly skilled 
stratum but, in fact, access to a firm's 
databases motivates even those who 
possess minimal technical knowledge 
to dabble in "creative computing." A 
teller at a New York savings bank was 
able to steal money from depositors' 
accounts and then cover his tracks by 
shifting money among several other 
accounts by making phony computer 
entries. Perhaps what is most interest- 
ing about this example is that it 
demonstrates the ease with which 
clerks and others who have access to 
on-line systems can destroy or alter 
information. In fact, "info- vandal- 
ism", whether committed by dis- 
gruntled employees, high school 
pranksters or left-wing direct action 
groups is increasing at a rapid pace. 

Computer industry journals are 
filled with articles and ads dealing 

A. Mix-up color tabs for new 
abstract-color filing system 

B. Creative etching with paper 
clips, pens and staples 

C. Hold this edge and flip 
across office: Office Frisbee 
is the best way to Keep Fit! 

D. Brighten up your co- 
workers' day by writing 
stories and jokes on labels. 

with the stability and security of 
information stored electronically. 
Legislation has recently been intro- 
duced that would make tampering 
with such data a federal crime. And, 
in a frantic scramble to protect their 
digital blips, businesses have come 
up with a whole range of precau- 
tionary measures. They range from 
physically protecting the hardware 
against magnet-waving maniacs to 
encoding devices and password 
functions that shield the data itself. 

So far, these efforts have not been 
adequate. There have been several 
cases of employees vindictively erasing 
important accounting data. In one 
instance, an overworked computer 
operator destroyed two million dollars 
of billing information that he didn't 
have time to enter into the computer. 
In France, a programmer, irate about 
having been dismissed, wrote a 
"time-release" program that erased 
all the company's records two years 
after his dismissal date. Others who 
have been terminated by their com- 



panies have entered information to 
give themselves large severance or 
pension payments. 

Perhaps more threatening th£in 
isolated instances of thievery and 
pranksterism to companies using data 
processing equipment is the possibility 
of strikes or occupations by office, 
communications and computer work- 
ers. While destruction and theft are 
more common, the more classic forms 
of "labor problems" do occur among 

New concepts in 

animal cage systems 

become a reality 

at Harford. 

• Bookkeeper cages 

• File Clerk fences 

• Receptionist receptacles 

• Word Processor pens 

• Xerox Girl cages 

• Secretary stalls 

Custom-Engineered animal 
cage systems 


Metal Products, Inc. 
Building 101 

this sector of the workforce. In 
February of 1981 the workers of 
British Columbia Telephone occupied 
their workplace in a unionizing drive. 
For six days "Co-op" Tel operated 
under no management. Technical 
workers and operators cross-trained 
each other in order to maintain 
telephone service during the action. 
In England last spring, computer 
programmers in the civil service 
struck for higher wages and completely 
stopped the flow of the government 
bureaucracy's life-blood (i.e. docu- 
ments, memos, vouchers, data). While 
these acts of collective sabotage do 
not take place very frequently, they 
demonstrate the possibility of using 
computers against their intended 


One might wonder why government 
and business are pursuing computeri- 
zation with such fervor, especially if 
the technology is so vulnerable. 
Speed and efficiency (read: increased 
productivity) are some of the standard 
reasons given in response to this 
question. Certainly more irrational 
elements also come into play. There 
seems to be an absolute mania for this 
technology regardless of whether it 
pays off in higher profits or produc- 
tivity. Many business execs assume it 
will even though there have been no 
thorough investigations into this 

Whatever individual corporate execs 
think they're doing, on the level of 
society as a whole it is clear that a vast 
restructuring is taking place. Whole 
segments of the economy are being 
shifted from older unprofitable indus- 
tries (e.g. auto, steel) to the dazzling 
information sector. This necessarily 
changes the details of our daily lives. 
Robots, word processors, and com- 
munication networks are only a few of 
the new machines that are part of the 
modem information-based society. 



According to liberal businessmen, 
futurists, and computer enthusiasts a 
new office will emerge from the use of 
the new technology which will reduce 
regimentation at work. Remote ter- 
minals, they argue, will allow people 
to do their work in their own homes at 
their own speeds. While this vision 
has serious flaws in itself, it is 
unlikely that management will relin- 
quish control over the work process. 
In fact, rather than freeing clerks 
from the gaze of their supervisors, the 
management statistic programs that 
many new systems provide will allow 
the careful scrutiny of each worker's 
output regardless of where the work is 
done. DecentraHzation, assuming it 
happens at all, will more likely bring 
about the reintroduction of piece-work, 
while breaking down the type of work 
cultures discussed above that contri- 
bute to the low productivity of office 

Outside the workplace, such things 
as video games, vidotext, cable TV 
and automatic tellers, seemingly be- 
nign objects in themselves , increasing- 
ly define our leisure time activities 


(watching various types of television 
screens for the most part). The 
individual "freedoms" that are 
created by the technological wonders 
of tele-shopping and home banking 
are illusory. At most they are con- 
veniences that allow for the more 
efficient ordering of modern life. The 
basis of social life is not touched by 
this "revolution." As in the office it 
remains hierarchical. In fact, the 
power of those in control is enhanced 
because there is an illusion of 
increased freedom. The inhabitants of 
this electronic village may be allowed 
total autonomy within their personal 
"user id's", but they are systema- 
tically excluded from taking part in 

programming " the " operating 

These vision of computer Utopia 
have come about in response to the 
wide-spread bad attitude that many 
people have toward the "smart" 
machines. V^hen computers were first 
introduced for such things as billings 
and phone lists people's immediate 
response was one of resentment at 
what they perceived as a loss in 

It's as simple as pulling 
a plug... 




First Church of 

power. Who hasn't had the experience 
of battUng an "infallible" computer 
that kept charging you for the same 
shirt, lost all your college records or 
disconnected your phone call for the 
fourth time. The point here is not that 
computers don't work but that this 
new technology provides authorities 
with a shield for their power. The 
frustration and powerlessness that 
people feel can conveniently be 
blamed on computer error. 

Computers used to automate social 
life have also been made the objects 
of sabotage. Everyone has probably 
heard a version of the story about the 
irate housewife storming into the 
nearest PG&E office to do summary 
justice to a guilty computer with a 
shotgun. Incidents of sabotage that 
contain a "social critique" have also 
taken place. In 1970 £in anti-war group 
calling itself BEAVER 55 "invaded" 
a Hewlett Packard installation in 
Minnesota and did extensive damage 
to hardware, tapes and data. More 
recently (April, 1980), a group in 
France (CLODO — The Committee to 
Liquidate or Divert Computers) raided 

information scientist 

a computer software firm in Toulouse, 
destroying programs, tapes and punch 

In the first case attacking a cen- 
tralized source of information was a 
way to both protest and sabotage U.S. 
involvement in the Viet Nam war. The 
French group which had mginy com- 
puter workers as members, went 
further, condemning computers for 
warping cultural priorities as well as 
for being the preferred tools of the 
police and other repressive institu- 
tions. The implications of the repres- 
sive and socially negative ways in 
which computers are used need to be 
explored. However, in their emphasis 
on massive destruction, groups such 
as the above direct themselves too 
much against the technology itself 
(not to mention those groups' authori- 
tarian internal structure). They do not 
pursue the positive aim of subverting 
computers, of exploring the relation- 
ship between a given technology and 
the use to which it is put. In this 
sense, pranks and theft, often carried 
out spontaneously and almost always 
individually, are more radical than the 




actions of those who group themselves 
around a specific poHtical ideology. 

All of these tendencies, the pranks, 
stealing and destruction in offices, 
strikes and occupations by computer 
workers, and spectacular bombings 
and arson attacks by left-wing groups 
imply a common desire to resist 
changes that are being introduced 
without our consent. The technology 
that has been developed to maintain 
profits and existing institutions of 
social control is extremely vulnerable 
to sabotage and subversion, especially 
in this transition period. If we are to 
avoid an alienated electronic version 
of capitalism, in which control is 
subtle but absolute, we will need to 
extend the subversion of machines 
and work processes to an all out attack 
on the social relations that make them 

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Real Estate Services Transamerica 

Real Estate Management 
600 Montgomery Street 
San Francisco, California 94111 
(415) 983-4100 

10'. All Pyramid Tenants 
545 Sansome Street 
701 Montgomery Street 

FROM: Building Office 

SUBJECT: Financial District Intruders 

It has been reported that people passing themselves off as 
employees are active in the financial district for purposes other 
than work. 

Here in the Pyramid, elevators are being used by this group for 
drag races between the floors. Rather than allowing others to 
routinely enter, the intruders push our personnel out of the 
way, while at the same time shout: "I'm four floors behind A.J. 
Foyt and have only two minutes left to catch 'em before my 
lunch hour ends!" 

Another member of this group, an elderly black woman 
carrying a shopping bag, poses as a member of Sanitary 
Services. She carries hundreds of tampons in this bag, and says 
she is refilling empty dispensers in the Women's Room on each 
floor. However, Security has found these items jamming the 
mail drops and stuck in the pen holders on the desks of our top 

Counter-measures to curb these rebellious trends are being 
implemented throughout the financial district. 

In this building, we are taking the following steps which, we 
hope, will begin to trim back the intruders' access to weapons 
and their arenas for action. 

As of August 1, all employees will use elevator service only in 
the accompaniment of a partner, to be selected by Security. As 
for sanitary items in the Women's Room, the Pyramid will be 
switching to Maxi-Pads and sponges on the same date. 

You may experience some inconvenience from these changes. 
Please bear in mind that the real intrusion comes from others 
who will not perform their jobs, and who make a mockery of 
this enterprise. Your cooperation with this initiative is 
requested. Thank you. 



by Sally Frye 



Heaven at 5 

qualifying statement 
8c 7 Black Beauties 
Tlie Void of Annual Report 
Senseless Paper Work 
Silly Dictaphone 
Vacant as hell 
5 days a week 
Sc heaven at 5 


processed god 

/ am not Memo rex 
fust the three in one 

come, take this silicone chip 
upon your tongue 

and you shall be with me, this day 
in Paradise 

no matter what Dow Jones might say 
or what the heathens cry 

ye all shall prosper well 
although the times are lean 

so long as you repent 
and tend to my machines 


back into being fired. 

or did I hire onto that one 

increasingly long ago 

when I was ungrown, 
dispatched, renewed, spit-out, 

mangled by temporary 
typingpools, malingered in calling 
-in-sick wl excuses 
garbled like phonelines 
and transitional, like images, 

leading back w/in 
: extemporaneous letters of 
introduction: to a mind 
plugged into blown circuits 
old as gaslamps 

and fireflies in moonshine, 
reexamined in parttime vacuums, 
Caesar's discharge, 

when I was insubordinate, 
substantive, green, pitied, 

ingrown wf no nail 

nor claw {scuttling nowhere) 

indignantly alone 

on off-gray wall'to-walis and 

palm plants shining 

in reflectors like 
obese selfconscious secretaries 
downturned pug-noses 
snorting cheap scents 
behind the boss 's ear, 

as though 
they were last-hurrahs^ 

John Barker 

MH 5/82 

Bookkeeper's Lament . , 

What I've wanted is to turn the desk around 
facing the window, and my wonderful view, 
I would have soared with my machine. 
But remembering scolding teachers saying 
"don't day-dream, don't look out the window"- 
I've been reluctant to invade territory that isn't mine 
upset another's symmetry... break rules. 

What I've done is to have kept my back to the window 
and my beautiful view has gotten only cursory glances 
from me and my machine has kept on humming, joining 
its voice with the voice of the city... drowning out mine. 

^ dir m ^^^^'^ ^ ^'^' ?^ ^"^"' ^^'^'^9 ^y ^°^^^ ^bove 
Ko^i.! 'i P'°^®s^' '" supplication: No one listeninq 
back to the routine, keep your nose clean. 

What I'm doing is walking straight into another kind of hell IB 
Hell nQHQx really disappears, it just changes faces— 
What I have to do is find an end to the never-ending Word- 
Bttter word, Bitter Work, Do I have enough money to pay 

my bills 
I wonder 

as I pay anothers bills with anothers money. 

City Poem For a Girl w/ No Windows 

O to be downtown on the day of New Year's Eve 

when calendar pages sweep the air 

when office girls in sweet abandon 

throw their anxious, dreary days in fistft/t^s 

from the window. 

The girl with no windows 

places before her 

the pages, the endless days 

that lied and lured her life to sleep 

Her fingers tear them one by one 

as if in dream 

She doesn't stay to watch the trash 

carried to the street. 

by Laurie Davis 

>> s' 


Spy with me 

on this train going nowhere, 
while the ice-age advances 
without pity. 

Watch me watching 
green numbers dancing, 
their thin paper tresses 
curling to the floor. 

See my eyes light up 

when I put somebody on hold. 

The lunchroom meets the lunch truck 
with the secret handshake 
in a noonal landscape of burrito wrappers 
and apple cores. 


These crisply cornered walls, 

these tinted windows looking out into 

windows that look from crisply cornered walls 

The man who designed 
this room, these rooms, 
is surely somewhere 
wealthily out of his mind 

iv .a 

Twoish. Slowish. 

Man overbored! Man overbored'' 

Quick someone, toss him a life-saver, 
or maybe a candy bar 

I am an alien in the heart of matter! 

No matter, uk \-'v-'T'-'j:K-msm «rrr,^-«^!s^ 

/ work and work and get further behind. ^ / 

Furthermore, I'm eating less and getting fatter! ^ 1/ 

I 'm so excited, can 't wait to phone 
the wife: m 

They just put me on deficit sharing! 

vj 1 _ HIM ^....r^- r#l» 

Stand by, this is serious 


But it's not that there's 

nowhere else to go. 

Or is there? Is this the end of the line? 
Are those ceiling lights the conductor's 

Do we really go home at night? How can we be sure? 
by Kurt Lipschutz 

■ ^^^^^^^^^ft^'^^^^^%^^^A^W^^^^rt^^^^^^^^^W^^^^^' 

pation ^% 

evolution know' 
1 intei'^ 


user-friendly interface network systems ergonomics technolor" 

workers personal computers employee participation 

responsive facility solutions open office system 

ergonomics technological revolution 

participation multifunctional intej^ 


facility solution*^ '^^ %^^ \ # W^ 1 1 % ^ *.ucipatiop 

responsj^ ^^ %^J ^^ ^ #% % ^^Mk ^^'^n office Sv> ^ \iO\^' 

technological ...luwledge personal 

responsive ergonomics revolution open 

„iidly network comp ^^ workers participation responsive interface user-friendly 

technological workers facility participation multifunctional facility responsive systems 

ergonomics user-friendly workers revolution systems open workers revolution systems open 


e system 


*-^ ..v^onomics 

The office of the future is coming 
soon to a business near you. This was 
the message of the "Third Annual 
Office Automation Conference" held 
at San Francisco's Moscone Center 
April 5-7 by the American Federation 
of Information Processing Societies. 
No sales were allowed on site. The 
event was aimed at providing the 
public with an opportunity to exper- 
ience the wonders of the new tech- 
nology. Vendors spent a lot of time 
trying to convince office managers 
that they really needed all the fancy 
gadgetry. The OAC was part of an 
ongoing propaganda campaign de- 
signed to sell an image of technol- 
ogical bliss which the information 
industry will supposedly provide. 

Fantasies of cool, hygienic hi-tech 
efficiency everywhere victorious used 
to be linked in the mass media with 
justifiable fears that people would 
become automatons in a Brave New 
World. Now such fantasies are being 
presented as the inevitable and 
universally beneficial thrust of "pro- 
gress." A striking example of this is 
the Wang TV commercial, which 
assures us that "the future looks even 
brighter" while a lab-coated woman 
takes notes from a bald, androgynous 
head on a giant Advent screen. 

The appeal to corporate leaders is 
clear — the catchwords are efficiency, 
productivity, reduced labor costs. But 
other promises are held out to the 
office workforce — the much- 
heralded elimination of routine work, 

we are told, meets the needs of an 
increasingly demanding and skill- 
oriented workforce: 

"As routine office tasks are taken 
over by machine, the remaining work 
tends to be more intellectual. ' ' 
["Managing Human Factors in the 
Automated Office, " by John J. Con- 
nell, Executive Director, Office Tech- 
nology Research Group, in Modern 
Office Procedures 3/82] 

"Today's office is marked by a 
gradual movement to break down 
barriers between technological haves 
and have-nots and to distribute 
powers of data processing and word 
processing equipment throughout the 
office workforce." [ibid.] 

The disparity between this demo- 
cratic daydream and the real conse- 
quences of technological "innova- 
tion" at the workplace (see Processed 
World #1) is the theme of a growing 
number of critics — office workers, 
writers and academics who have 
experienced or observed the new 
work environments. 

"... the office of the future looks 
very much like the factory of the past, 
the way it's being implemented. 
There's nothing at all new about shift 
work, piece work, which is what pay 
per line of information is. Or pay by 
keystroke, homework, that's a step 
back into the Middle Ages, if you ask 
me, and into the cottage industries." 
[Karen Nussbaum, President 9 to 5 
National Association of Working 
Women, in Computerworld 5/3/82] 





Attend interminable workshops by "ac- 
knowledged industry leaders" where you 
will listen to hours of vague rhetoric on 
ridiculously esoteric specialization within 
the realm of personnel control and 
information manipulation. 


vital theme of the 1982 Office Automation 
Conference. Several different program 
emphases give you the choice of focusing 
on what you want to learn more about. 



about the rapidly changing world of 
information technology and its efficient 
use in controlling your workforce. Learn 
how to implement schemes to garb this 
restructuring of the office work process 
in the guise of "Quality of Work-Life" and 
"job enrichment," even while your control 
seems to qrow and arow. 


in pretending that somehow human life 
will be improved by the unceasing growth 
of data creation, storage, and retrieval... 
and join them in working to obscure the 
fact that what little individual freedom 
there is, on the job and in leisure time, is 
being quickly eroded by the expansion of 
modern communications (esp. surveil- 
lance) capabilities. 

First Church of 
Information, Scientist 



1) Individuals in the Automated Office: 

How can they be convinced to perpetuate 
their self-delusions that they are doing 
something meaningful? 

2) Organization and Management Con- 
cerns: How can the proletarianization of 
middle- and low-management be effected? 
How will a shrinking workforce and 
increasing concentration of data handling 
responsibilities increase the vulnerability 
of your company to sabotage? 

3) User Interface and Usability: How can 

thinking, feeling human beings be molded 
to do routine tasks over and over in front of 
TV screens? What is the right combination 
of fancy hardware, user-friendly inter- 
faces, "nice" office decor, and produc- 
tivity measurement techniques? How can 
users be prevented from interfacing with 
each other instead of with their terminals? 

There's a place for you in 
the New information Order 







"Among the subsidiary benefits 
management expects to derive from 
[office automation] is... the squeezing 
out of the minutes and hours of labor 
power lost in the personal relations 
and contacts among secretaries and 
between secretaries and their 'prin- 
cipals' — which is what they mean 
when they speak of the 'end of the 
social office.' " [Labor & Monopoly 
Capital by Harry Braverman {1974 
Monthly Review Press — New York)] 

Even the industry itself has been 
forced to recognize the dehuman- 
ization and heightened levels of 
anxiety, tension and physical stress 
associated in particular with the 
installation of CRT "workstations." 

" 'The Human Connection' theme 
of the conference assured buyers that 
the industry does care about people 
and reiterated that "people" (i.e. 
managers) develop and interpret pol- 
icies, strategies, design and allocate 
resources and implement systems. If 
there was any thread of continuity 
throughout the arrangement of 
booths, it was how "people" were to 
fit in. 'User Friendliness' was the 
reassuring nostrum salespeople 

strained to emphasize." [L. Giesel- 
man, union activist, cornmenting on 
the OAC] 

Recently, the more sophisticated 
glossies such as Modern Office Pro- 
cedures have been filled with articles 
and ads devoted to the wonders of 
"ergonomic design." "Ergonomics," 
originally a synonym for biotech- 
nology ("The aspect of technology 
concerned with the application of 
biological and engineering data to 
problems relating to man and the 
machine") is offered as a magical 
solution to the miseries experienced 
by office workers using the new 

"The electronic systems work with 
great rapidity to produce information 
instantaneously. To cope with these 
demands alertness and vigilance are 
essential. The concept of comfort 
must be examined: comfort not as a 
goal of ultimate ease, but as sufficient 
ergonomic support for alertness." 
[Mod. Off. Proc, op.cit.] "Because it 
is ergonomically designed, real peo- 
ple in real business situations can 
work more comfortably, efficiently 


«. «? 


and therefore more productively." 
[Wordplex advertisement] "You've 
invested heavily in hardware, soft- 
ware and well-trained data processing 
staff. Yet your productivity is lagging. 
What's wrong? Perhaps the problem 
is seating." [Operarts ad] "We've 
engineered the anxiety out of com- 
puters." [Data General ad] 

Of course, as these quotes clearly 
show, the industry's real concern is 
not to adapt the new technology to 
workers' needs, but to ensure that 
workers adapt more easily to the 

cessors. Similar if more muted noises 
have been heard from U.S. unions 
too. As a rule, such opposition to 
office automation targets two pro- 
blems: the loss of jobs and the 
heightened alienation and lack of 
ontrol over the work process. In 
response to the first problem, the 
most common demand is for "up- 
grading" of displaced workers at 
company or government expense, to 
allow them to find their own slots in 
the ever-expanding New Information 
Order. In response to the second. 

procesang people ^^^ 

The problem of user 

resistance may 

continue throughout 

the lifespan of a 

company's OA system. 

^ Recommended 
remedy for 
recurring filing 

oppressive conditions the technology 
creates. But just like the mouthwash 
ad that claims Brand X will solve your 
romantic problems, ergonomics hype 
grossly exaggerates the ability of 
designers to make bearable, let alone 
enjoyable, the ultra-intensified and 
-routinized work which is the real 
promise of office automation. 

Most likely, the industry also 
anticipates worker resistance of a 
more active kind than "lagging 
productivity." In Europe, a number of 
white-collar unions have put up at 
least token resistance to "rational- 
ization" via VDT's and micropro- 

arguments are made for "human- 
ized" work processes and "enrich- 
ment" schemes which allow workers 
more control over their jobs — 
flextime, work sharing, "encounter"- 
style meetings with supervisors — in 
other words, workers will be allowed 
to make all the decisions that change 
nothing. Meanwhile, office work's 
actual content goes completely un- 

While eyestrain, backache and 
general systemic stress from ex- 
hausting work schedules are serious 
problems, there are more serious 
problems still, which existed in offices 



long before automation and which* work in general." [Computerworld 

automation is only bringing to the 4/12/82] And Infoworld was hip e- 

explosion point. These problems are nough to add: "As bizarre as the 

what PH^ and a handful of other critics protestors were outside, the action 

have begun to address. Dissidents inside the show was surreal by 

associated with PW were present at comparison." 

the Office Automation Conference to All the same, the ruling image- 
make our views known. We distri- makers have things so well in hand 
buted 1000 bogus "programs" inside that the terrifying absurdity of most 
the Conference [reprinted here] and modern work still seems normal to 
staged a costume picket line out front, most people, and "technology" re- 

To many, perhaps most of the data mains an unstoppable Monolithic 

and personnel management types Monster to be embraced or blindly 

present, our critique was essentially rejected. For us the real point is not to 

invisible: "What are they protest- do office work less speedily or more 

ing?" "Er... ah., computers I guess safely, or to have more say over how 

- Automation." "Wha' - they it's allocated, nor even - in the long 

wanna do everything by hand?" run - to get more money for it. The 

[Eavesdropped conversation between real point is: why do it at all? What is 

two businessmen in the registration the purpose of all this office work? 

line at the OAC] From our perspective, the vast 

Some of the industry tabloids came majority of information recording, 

closer to the truth - partly because storing and exchange is thoroughly 

they bothered to ask: useless, except to maintain the coer- 

" 'Office Automation is for Auto- cive power of corporations, govern- 
matons,' 'IBM = Intensely Boring ments and the money economy gen- 
Machines,' 'Data Slaves.' erally. It's not enough to oppose 

"These and other slogans hand- automation merely to protect jobs or 
painted on placards carried by de- to preserve current levels of worker 
monstrators greeted lunch-time strol- control over tasks. The implementa- 
lers outside the Moscone Center. The tion of profitable technologies has 
demonstrators were members of a never been halted by merely def en- 
local organization (so informal that it sive opposition. To be effective, 
has no name) that consists of about 20 opposition must take the offensive, 
secretaries and programmers who asserting new ideas about how society 
volunteer their lunch hours to protest might be run better and with vastly 
office conditions in particular and less work, and devising new tactics 

for subverting authority. 

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Processed World, 55 Sutter St . ^829, San Francisco, CA 94104, USA 





mayihelp i 

YOU? i 

w i iiiiiiiiiiiii m iii i iiiiimumiiUiwmiumiwHimii 

[SCENE: Michael, a '^employee'' 
with San Francisco 's infamous White 
Slavery Temporary Agency, is riding 
the elevator to the 16th floor of 525 
Market Street where his phone sys- 
tem, a computer screen and micro- 
fiche reader await his arrival. He is 
tired and irritated today because he 
was awake all night writing this play. 
He overhears two other temployees, a 
young man wearing faded jeans and a 
girl with chopped hair, discussing 
their employment with Wells Fargo 's 
credit card customer service depart- 
ment. They are also headed for the 
16th floor. ] 

SUE: I talked with this one bitch 
yesterday, she said her reputation 
was ruined when her charge was 
decUned at Gumps. I said, "What 
reputation?," and released her. 
TED: That's a good one Sue. I had 
this old guy call up from San Jose, a 
physician, and he wasn't satisfied 
with Wells Fargo 's policy so he told 
me that he could buy and sell me. Can 
you imagine?, "Young man, I have 
enough money to buy and sell you," 
he said. I told him that I wasn't the 
kind of "man" he was accustomed to 
buying and selling. I also told him 
that when the revolution comes I was 
going to drive to San Jose so he could 
be the first one I shoot. Then* I 
released him. 

[NOTE: Release means hang up on 
in Wells Fargon. ] 


[The other elevator riders — a man 
wearing an expensive suit and hold- 
ing a sheaf of declined loan appli- 
cations, a woman in her early thirties 
wearing a gray business outfit and 
carrying a pot of coffee and five cups, 
a Hispanic cafeteria employee and a 
friend riding the elevator to hide from 
her boss, and a fat, white, old Wells 
Fargo security guard with a loaded 
.38 policeman's special— all look at 
the two blasphemous temployees with 
dismay, then stare vacantly at the 
blinking numbers. At 16 Michael, Sue 
and Ted debark. ] 

MICHAEL: You could have been shot 
in there! They don't take kindly to 
dissidence. Especially when you work 
with computers. 

SUE: We're both getting terminated 
today, I overheard my supervisor 
talking to her boss yesterday. They're 
getting reports that we're being rude 
on the phone. 
MICHAEL: Are you? 
TED: Only when people start gibber- 
ing about their precious credit being 

SUE: Or when their accounts are 
closed because they didn't make their 
payment in time. 



TED: Or when they want immediate 
action even if it takes every bank 
employee in the whole building. 
MICHAEL: Right. Or when they call 
up and demand to speak to a 
supervisor first thing. . . 
TED: ...and if you can't handle it 
yourself— in other words, He and get 
them off the line— then your supervi- 
sor resents you for the remainder of 
your employment. 

SUE: Actually, Fm rude only about 
82 percent of the time. The other 18 
percent of the time the folks are 
bearable. At least they realize that 
banks hire temporary employees to 
answer customer service phones be- 
cause they're cheap labor and they 
are an effective information block 
when the bank screws up and steals 
the customer's money. 
[A Supervisor approaches the group. 
''You should have been on the phones 
two minutes ago!'' she screeches. 
The temployees scatter like beetles. 
Michael goes to his cubicle. The CRT 

screen reads: THE APPLICATION 
MICHAEL: Shit, the computers are 
down again, [he signs onto the phone 
system and puts the star unit over his 
ear] I love this. [He makes himself 
available for incoming calls. The gate 
opens and a call comes in] Customer 
service, Michael Speaking, May I 
help you? 

CUSTOMER: Yes, my number is 5.. 
4.. 1.. 0.. 3.. 7... 

MICHAEL: Excuse me Ma'am, be- 
fore you give me your number, I 
should tell you that our computers are 

CUSTOMER: Which means? 
MICHAEL: Which means that I can't 
help you right now. 
CUSTOMER: I've been on hold for 
fifteen minutes mister, and I want 
something done about my statement 
right now! 

MICHAEL: I can appreciate that 
you've been on hold but there's 



nothing I can do. I can't even tell you 
your owing balance. 
CUSTOMER: I want to speak to your 

MICHAEL: I'm sorry Ma'am, my 
supervisor is going to tell you the 
same thing that I'm telling you. She's 
on her break right now emyway. 
CUSTOMER: Then I want to talk to 
your supervisor's supervisor! I want 
to speak to the head of the depart- 

MICHAEL: I'm sorry Ma'am, he's in 
a meeting... 

CUSTOMER: I don't want "sorry" 
from some snotty-nosed asshole with 
no brains, I want to speak... 
MICHAEL: Goodbye, Ma'am. 
[Michael releases the customer. He is 
depressed by this first encounter. The 
day has begun badly.] 
MICHAEL: [Crossing to Ted in the 
cubicle next to his] She called me a 
snotty-nosed asshole with no brains. 
TED: [He holds up his hand to 
indicate that he is talking to a 
cardholder] ... Yes.. I understand that 
Ma'am, that's why they're called 
double charges. You've been charged 
twice for the same item due to a 
computer error. All you have to do is 
write us a letter asking us to remove 
the double charge, otherwise it will 
show up again on your next state- 
ment... No, we can't just do it over 
the phone... I'm sorry.. Yes, I 
understand that your time is very 
valuable... That's right, a signed 

letter.. O.K., Thanks for calling. 
[Michael gets a drink of water. He 
sees a Supervisor ask to see Ted and 
Sue in her office. ] 

SUPERVISOR: The seasonal over- 
flow of customer calls has receded 
according to our call-counting com- 
puter so I'm afraid that you will have 
to be terminated as of this afternoon. 

[Ted and Sue laugh in her face. Sue 
goes to the woman 's room to smoke a 
joint. Ted erases several cardholder's 
addresses in the computer, then 
starts a small fire in his wastebasket. 
Suddenly there is an announcement 
over the highrise loudspeaker. ] 
ANNOUNCEMENT: Please evacuate 
the building. This is on emergency. 
Please leave via the exit nearest you. 
[The lights fade as Michael follows 
Sue and Ted through the emergency 
exit. Michael smirks. ] 
MICHAEL: You really shouldn't 
have pulled that alaim Sue. You'll 
probably be fired for this. 
SUE: Heavens. 

[An apparition arises out of the corner 
of the now vacant office. It is HUSBY, 
you all, cowering at your desks, 
issuing bad checks, writing stupid 
letters about how you ' ve lost your j obs , 
sold your junky cars, borrowed money 
from your goofy brothers in Toledo. 
Don't think I'm fooled by this 
chicanery... You there. Bob McDon- 
ald in San Diego. I saw your wife buy 
that dinette set yesterday. You know 
damn well that now you're way over 
your limit. We're not a charity buster, 
that'll be one over limit charge, thamk 
you very much... And you, Helen 


PR^rfssEO (roi\LD 

Troy from Grand Island, Nebraska. I 
don't care if it is 10 degrees below 
zero, you can't afford that new fur 
coat. Just clean the ratty pullover 
that's sitting on the floor in your 
closet. After all, you're only a vapid 
secretary... What's this I see, an 
application here from a certain Billy 
Dong in New York City. Look fella, I 
realize that they told you before you 
left Cambodia that this is the Land of 
Opportunity, but we don't issue VISA 
cards to dishwashers. If you want it 
bad enough, I suggest you either go 
back to school and study computers or 
send that knockout wife of yours over 
to 14th and Broadway for some quick 
cash. [The apparition takes on a 
reddish tinge and becomes more 
adamant] Now let's get to the 
hardcore... Miss Collins, I see here 
that you've moved a total of twelve 
times without leaving a forwarding 
address. Not nice Miss Collins. I 
guess it's time to attach the ol' wages. 
You'll be hearing from our tribe of 

bloodthirsty lawyers... All right, 
what's this crap with Mr. W.S. 
Grinder from Spokane? He has seven 
accounts for his salesmen but he still 
refuses to pay the business fee?.. 
Hmmm.. Can you say "Jail" Mr. 
Grinder?.. How about "unusual ex- 
periments?" Can you say "untold 
beatings" Mr. Grinder?.. What? Oh, 
so those business fees don't seem so 
bad now Mr. Grinder? Good, we'll 
expect a check in tomorrow's mail.. 
[The apparition begins to fade].. I'm 
sorry Mrs. Flinder, but now that your 
husband is dead we're going to have 
to close your account.. I don't care if 
you've been with us for thirty-five 
years, that's THE POLICY... and Joel 
Smith, I'm afraid we won't be able to 
replace that card for at least three to 
thirteen weeks. I know it's getting 
close to Christmas, but... [Has by, 
God of Credit fades away] 









Help, I'm Doing Hard Time in the Federal 
{or state or county or city) Bureaucracy 

George Orwell MUST have worked 
for the government at one time. How 
else could he have known so much 
about doublethink, or the fact that 
2 + 2 = 4 when you're talking about 
engineering but 5 when you're talking 
about the budget. 

We were sitting around the bar 
talking after (during?) working hours, 
talking about a promotional exam we 
had to take. Jerry (all names are 
naturally fictitious) said how part of 
the exam was to see if you could write 
logical, terse, to-the-point para- 
graphs. I said that they should have 
selected people who could write 
paragraphs that were as ambiguous 
as possible, so that when policy 
changed with changes in administra- 
tions, no one would be embarrassed. 

Susie added that she would have 
picked people who could mention as 
many supervisors' prejudices as pos- 
sible, without offending any of them. 
This is one organization where they 
pay good money (taxpayers' money, 
remember?) to send you to school to 
learn how to write, and then shitcan 
your letters and documents because 
they're too honest. "That isn't the 
way we do things. So-and-so doesn't 
like that word." 

I could handle it if it was the 
ordinary business bullshit. What gets 
to me though is that this is supposed 
to be an agency that has some 
responsibility toward enviromental 
protection, and although they glorify 
it mightily in all their statements of 
policy, the truth of the matter is that 









no one could give less of a fuck about 
the environment, because it just gets 
in ..the way of the REAL work of the 
agency, which is building dams or 
roads, or dislocating Indian tribes, or 
tearing down neighborhoods, or 
whatever. So part of my job is to 
MAKE IT APPEAR that the agency is 
doing everything humanly possible to 
comply with our many state, county, 
and federal environmental regula- 
tions, while in ACTUALITY I have to 
minimize or downright quash or at 
best find a nice convenient loophole to 
get around any real environmental 
problems and hope they don't hit the 
light of day. 

It isn't just my agency that does 
this. They all do it. I know this 
because I have to work with them all. 
But that's just part of it. Part of it is 
the way you lose your job skills 
through over-specialization, so that 
after a couple of years you're as 
useless on the job market as a dodo 
bird. Part of it is the crummy and 

demoralizing work atmosphere. Part 
of it is being as a "professional" and 
fmding out a computer program could 
probably do your job... with a good 
deal less anguish to all concerned. 
And part of it is the total illogicahty of 
the red tape itself, which somehow 
transcends mere human pettiness, 
and becomes something awesome and 
immovable, like a glacier. 

I once figured out that to do my job 
according to the book, following all 
the procedures, would take 32 work- 
ing days per item. Then I figured out 
how many were allowed me by all the 
time limits in the system. 15 working 
days. So I HAVE to do my job wrong 
in order to follow the rules. The- 
oretically, what I'm doing should take 
thought, analysis, independent judg- 
ment, and professional standards 
But I don't HAVE THE TIME. If you 
have 15 days to do a 32 day-job, you 
don't have time to think. You have 
time to use buzz-words and recycled 
phrases from other documents. Then 

PROC. VRLD. CD [C^iT]4JL*/"..P4RT-^! 



this stuff gets unloaded on the 
unfortunate public and they complain 
about gobbledygook. No wonder! 

It took me about a year to figure out 
why government has the lousiest 
reputation in the world. Then I 
realized it's because they're denied 
even the elemental satisfaction of 
doing a good job. The politics change 
too fast. They change the rules in the 
middle of the project. Things you 
write, work on for months, disappear 
and you never see them again. 
Original thought is about as welcome 
as a nun in a whorehouse. So after a 
while you drop out spiritually. You 
have to keep going there to pay the 
rent and feed the kids. But nothing in 
the world can induce you to feel 
involved, or God forbid, responsible. 

Needless to say, this is not very 
good for you. 

That's why I spend as much of my 
working time as possible drunk or 
stoned. When you're drunk, you don't 
feel. When you're stoned, you at least 

have a handle on what's going on. 
You can watch your mind go 
CRUNCH as you step in from the 
sunny streets into the dull, stale- 
smelling building. You can see every- 
body avoiding eye contact. You see 
how damn programmed everybody is, 
sitting at their desks, trying to or 
pretending to work. Not thinking. 
Daydreaming about the next 3-day 
weekend. Thinking about that glor- 
ious day when they'll be too old to 

You watch people deteriorate. Like 
in any other institution, the longer 
you stay there, the crazier you get. 
The 25-year-olds look at each other 
with terror in their eyes, as the 
possibility occurs to them that they 
may be there the rest of their lives. 
Just like a prison. Or an insane 
asylum. Except we're respectable. 
We're government workers. 

— THEMIS, that complaining hitch 
over on the fifth floor 




loy Freddie Baer 

The alarm jolted Joan awake at 6:30 
AM, scattering her dreams. Grabbing 
the clock and hurling it across the 
room, she listened with a certain 
amount of satisfaction as it crunched 
against the wall. Joan threw herself 
back into the pillows in search of her 
now lost dreams but was unable to fall 
back asleep. 

Groaning, Joan got up, splashed 
around in the shower, dried herself 
off, and drew a brush through her 
hair. She put on the coffee and 
pushed some bread into the toaster, 
and then settled down to the unplea- 
sant task of dressing for work. 

A dress was pulled out of the closet 
that was almost matronly in length 
and lack of color. It was, of course, 
high-necked. Joan remembered the 
last time she wore a vaguely low cut 
dress to work. Sam White, one of the 
vice-presidents of the company, had 
come up behind her while she was 
typing and practically drooled into her 
cleavage. Never again, she thought. 
Next came the Llegs' pantyhose 
(cheaper, you know, when you buy 

five) and sensible shoes with the low, 
low heels. . . 

Joan was dressed in aght, tight 
black leather with pants that laced up 
on either side, exposing flesh. Her top 
also laced up, this titae in front, and 
her nipples played peek-a-boo. A pair 
of high, high stiletto boots added a 
good six inches to her height, and she 
held a very nasty looking cat o' nine 
tails in one hand. Facing her across 
the room stood a naked Sam White. 

' 'Oh Mistress, ' ' he plaintively cried, 
"I'll be your slave forever! Just hurt 

"Forever?" she asked, ' 'Isn't that a 
long, long time?" punctuating the 
question with a blow from her whip. 

"Yes! Yes!" he whimpered, "For- 
ever!" as he fell to the floor on his 
back, squirming in pleasure. 

Placing her foot on his chest, she 
said, "Forever's just a moment in the 
infinity of time," and dug her heel 
into his heart. 

Acrid smoke filled the room, making 
Joan cough; the toaster was on the 
blink again. "Looks like no time for a 
sit down breakfast this morning, ' ' she 
thought as she pulled the blackened 



bread from the toaster. She wondered 
if you could get cancer from eating 
charcoaled toast. 

Bus Ride 

"Late again," Joan thought as she 
sprinted the two blocks to the bus 
stop. That bitch, Missy Hogan, the 
office manager, was sure to say 
something about it. She arrived at the 
stop just as a bus was pulling out. The 
driver ignored her blows to the side of 
the bus and continued on his way. 
Cursing, Joan leaned up against a 
light pole and waited for the next bus. 
Minutes ticked by — her stomach 
rumbled, a crowd grew at the stop, 
and still no bus. 

Just as Joan was considering 
walking and/or suicide, a bus arrived. 
At once people dived for the opening 
door; the air was filled with jostling 
elbows and excuse mes. It appeared 
that everyone at that bus stop was late 
for work. Joan got on the bus, 
flashing her half of a fast pass at the 
driver. Luckily, he was numbed out, 
his eyes fastened on the road ahead, 
nodding at anything thrust at him. 




All the seats were taken so Joein 
braced herself in the aisle by the back 
door for easy escape. She studied her 
fellow passengers; miserable and 
tired, they resembled characters from 
a Hieronymus Bosch painting. She 
chuckled to herself; her vision of hell 
consisted of Satan being a bureaucrat 
and Joan his one-girl office with a 24 
hour day, a seven day week, and no 
paid vacations. (The only perk was all 
the coffee you could drink, but then 
there were no toilet breaks.) 

The bus lurched forward; more 
people jammed on at every stop. Just 
as Joan thought the bus could hold no 
more, the doors would open, and the 
crush would increase. She looked out 
the window; a horde of people 
surrounded the bus, looking at their 
watches and howling to be let on. 
Pushing the doors open, they stam- 
peded onto the bus; Jo£in fell to the 
floor, her body mangled by feet. The 
crowd continued to surge forward; 
there was breaking glass, and arms 
and legs and heads stuck out of the 
bus windows. People still squeezed 
on. The bus finally could hold no 
more; groaning metal was heard, then 
the bus exploded like a rotten tomato 
being hurled against a wall. Bodies 
flew everywhere. 

Joan found herself being pushed 
out the door; the bus had arrived 
downtown, and it was time to be 
vomited out. 

The Office 

Joan swung the office door open, 
twenty minutes late. Missy's head 
popped out of her cubicle, glancing at 
the clock. "You're late again, Joan. 
That's the third time in the last two 
weeks. I'd thought that talk we had 
regarding your tardiness would make 
an impression. Certainly, docking 
your pay a half hour will!" Missy 
smiled viciously. 

Joan shuffled her feet and grinned 
weakly in an apologetic manner but 
thought, "Die bitch." Rent was due 



that week, and she was short already! have done so would have notified 

Shehurriedly went to her cubicle. She others to her late arrival. . .Not that 

draped her coat over her chair rather Missy wouldn't eventually. Missy 

than check it in her locker in back; to would use anything to make herself 

Carol Riggle, sculptor and xerographer 



look good so the small group of 
workers under her were continually 

Joan was a shit worker, plain and 
simple. She had been trained in a 
variety of tasks and so, like an adding 
machine, she could be moved from 
one department to another. No one 
thought she actually did anything, but 
there was always a demand for her 

Making Coffee 

"Joan, if you have nothing to do 
now, ' ' Charlene asked, knowing damn 
well she had tons to do, "could you 
make the coffee for this morning's 
Executive Meeting?" 

"Sure thing, Charlene, right away! ' ' 
replied Joan, also knowing that if she 
refused. Missy would hear about her 
unco-operative behavior. 

Joan walked into the coffee room; 
some asshole had finished the last cup 
of the pot, leaving the dregs to slowly 




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cook down. She grabbed the pot, 
rinsed out the pieces of loose crud, 
filled it with water, and placed it on 
the hot plate. 

The water was not getting hot fast 
enough. She looked around the coffee 
room for materials to burn, grabbed 
napkins and coffee filters, and set 
them on fire around the pot. She 
chortled to herself and gleefully ran 
from room to room, gathering material 
to burn. Computer reports, personnel 
files, "BusinessWeek" magazines, all 
were thrown into the flames. 

The pot became a bubbling cauldron . 
She threw in the grounds, murmuring 
spells and incantations, and levitated 
the cauldron into the air. She floated it 
to the executive boardroom; gusts of 
howling winds flung the doors open at 
her command. The cauldron poured, 
scalding the entire administrative staff 
to death. 

"Joan! Where the hell's that 
coffee?!" Charlene called. Joan 
mumbled something about having to 
make it and poured the hot water 
through the ground coffee. After 
Charlene left the room, Joan heaved a 
great gob of phlegm into her throat 
and spit several times into the coffee. 

Mail Opening 

Joem started opening the mail. 
Since it was Monday, there were more 
letters, bills, resumes, and magazines 
than usual; the company used to have 
an envelope-opening machine, but 
when it broke down, they never 
bothered to repair it, and so she was 
stuck with using a hand letter opener. 
Swish went the blade as she inserted 
it under the flap of an envelope £md 
viciously ripped the paper asunder. 
The metal opener gleamed in the 
sun. . . 

She was wearing white — all white. 
Her white patent leather maryjane 
shoes, her white crocheted tights, her 
white lacy frock with the puffed 
sleeves, even her pigtails were held in 



white satin bows. She was holding the 
letter opener in her hand. It had 
become quite sharp. She quietly 
strolled up behind Missy's desk, 
twirled her chair around and expertly 
cut Missy's throat with the letter 
opener from one end to the other: a 
wide gaping smile of a wound. Missy 
gurgled in astonishment and expired. 
Blood, however, splattered every- 
where, soaking her white dress, 
dripping on her white shoes, pinken- 
ing her white hair ribbons. She tskked 
to herself and set about dissecting 
Missy. She took off Missy's career 
girl uniform (of course, an Evan 
Picone suit with tailored blouse), 
removed her Joseph Magnin pumps 
and Hane's pantyhose, and stripped 
off her matching Vassarette bra and 
panties. Joan then took the letter 
opener and laid Missy open from her 
sternum to her pelvis. Very neatly, 
she removed Missy's internal organs: 
heart, lungs, stomach, liver, and the 
rest, and alphabetically filed them 

"Damn," Joan thought, catching 
the tips of her fingers on an envelope 
flap, "another fucking paper cut." 
She got up with a flurry and headed to 
the John to wash her wounds. 

At the Water Cooler 

Her stomach flopped over twice and 
then played dead. Joan had eaten her 
lunch at her desk while working (if 
you can call stamping invoices "En- 
tered" working), hoping that Missy 
would notice and add that half-hour 
back on to her pay check. The 
avocado-cheese and-sprouts sandwich 
which had seemed so appetizing as 
she made it the night before had 
become almost inedible. The advo- 
cado had turned black, the cheese 
moldy, the bread dry, and the spiouts 
wilted. She was positive that sht had 
gotten food poisoning from the unre- 
frigerated mayonnaise. 

Her stomach lurched again and 
she staggered to the file drawer that 

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doubled as a medicine cabinet. The 
only stomach remedy was Alka Selt- 
zer, left over from the time Fred 
Herren, the head of personnel, had 
insisted his secretary fetch it to cure 
his hangover. 

"Any port in a storm," Joan 
thought, ripping open the tin foil 
envelope and plopping the tablets into 
her cup. She walked over to the water 
cooler and slowly filled her cup. The 
cool blue of the distilled water caught 
her eye. 

The water was warm as Joan swam. 
Tropical fish darted in front of her 
mask, making her gasp at their colors. 
She wore nothing under her wet suit; 
the way the thick rubber molded itself 
on her body felt good. She breathed 
steadily, deeply, kicking her fins to 
propel herself further into this 

Suddenly, out of the corner of her 
eye, she noticed a dark, ominous 
shape swimming towards her. A 
shark: she recognized the beady. 



bloodshot eyes of Fred Herren and 
quickly gripped her spear gun. As if 
in slow motion, she turned and 
steadied the gun. As the Fred shark 
came closer, she pulled the trigger. 
The spear shot out, hitting it in the 
eye. Again, she kicked, this time 
towards the surface as the dying Fred 
sank twitching towards the bottom. 

She suddenly felt wet and realized 
that the seltzer had overflowed the 
cup onto her hand. She downed what 
was left of the cure and went to get 
some rags to clean up the mess. 


Later afternoon found Joan as usual 
in front of a CRT terminal, entering 
address updates to the company's 
vendor list. Nearby was Katy, another 
shit worker, entering sales informa- 
tion on another CRT. She was new; 
Joan and she had never exchainged 
much more than the perfunctory 
hellos and goodbyes, and now she 
seemed immersed in her work. 

Joan sat at the terminal, mindlessly 
filling in the blanks in the screen. Not 
much variation in this project, the 
codes were A for add, M for modify, D 
for delete and C for cancel, in case she 
fucked up; then, update information 
and punch enter. Great fun. 

She was a worker ant, scuttling 
back and forth from where an avocado 
sandwich laid to her nest. Surround- 
ing her were other ants; together, 
they formed a steady stream to and 
from the sandwich. She was heading 
back to the nest, carrying a crumb 
when suddenly a towering foot ap- 
peared out of nowhere, crushing 
several of her companions. It was 
joined by another; then all was still 
again. Together she and some of the 
other ants ran up the nearest foot, 
past the shoe and sox to bare skin, 
and started pinching flesh. Incredibly 
loud howls started, and Joan was 
flattened by a swatting hand. 

"Hey Joan," Katy called from 
across the room. "Have you ever felt 

like a worker ant, carrying bits of 
information back and forth?" 

Joan's jaw dropped, and she hit the 
abort key instead of the enter key, 
causing all her work for that afternoon 
to be lost forever in the process. 

Home Again 

Joan looked contentedly out her 
living room window at the lights of the 
downtown buildings. It had been a 
good evening. Katy and she had 
dinner after work and rode the bus 
home together, talking all the while 
about their respective fantasies. It 
seemed that they shared quite a few. 
While they were talking on the bus, 
other passengers had contributed 
their fantasies too, breaking down the 
usual wall of silence. Even the bus 
driver chimed in with a few of her 
own. (The one of taking everyone on a 
rush hour bus to a picnic in the park 
was exceptionally good.) 

Joan was with a crowd of people, 
surrounded by friends and lovers. 
They had gathered on a hill overlook- 
ing the city; it was night. Several 
people, including Joan, held watches 
in their heuids; together they watched 
the time. 

At midnight the explosives they 
had planted at the foundations of the 
now abandoned downtown office build- 
ings would go off. The second hand of 
the watches finally nudged 12 o'clock; 
numerous explosions rocked the city 
below. An ominous silence followed as 
the lights of the high rises went out. The 
outlines of the buildings wavered for a 
moment, then slowly, deliciously, col- 
lapsed in upon themselves. A heavy 
cloud of dust arose from the ruins as 
did a cheer from the hilltop. 

Suddenly, there was a loud rap on 
Joan's front door. Joan quickly turned 
from her window and started to cross 
her living room, but before she 
reached the front door, its wood 
splintered as a foot smashed open the 
lock. Joan drew back in horror as 
three men with guns drawn shoul- 



dered their way into the room. They though he was insane; he continued, 

backed her against a wall. One of "We've been monitoring your 

them flashed a badge at her, shouting, thoughts for a long time. As long as 

''Mind Police!" She stared at him as they were harmless, individualistic 



fantasies, we would let you amuse 
yourself, but now that you're thinking 
about getting together with other 
people to do something. . .Well, we 
can't allow that." 

With that, he drew out a pair of 
handcuffs and began to fasten them 
on Joan's wrists. It was then his turn 
to stare at her as she doubled over in 
laughter. She righted herself and 
looked intensely at them . * * Fantasies , ' ' 
she said, *'are very powerful things. 

When you use them to your advantage, 
they can become reality." 

The three men shimmered under 
her glance and then were gone. Joan 
looked at her hands, and the cuffs 
vanished, then at the door, and the 
damage repaired itself. Smiling to 
herself, Joan crossed the room to the 
phone. She would call up Katy, she 
decided, and tell her that their plgms 
for the future would only be limited by 
their imaginations. 

Our costs have stabilized at apx. $1000 per issue, thanks to free labor m 
typesetting, camera work, and printing. We do not copyright the material m 
Processed World but ask for credit and a copy when something is borrowed, and 
would be filled with chagrin if someone took our magazine and made money off of 




Man With A Movie Camera - Sternberg Bros.